The healing power of design in neonatal care | Silentia

The healing power of design in neonatal care

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Hospitals are designed to provide high quality care, but the power of design to enhance a patient’s overall recovery is sometimes overlooked.

In 1984 Robert Ulrich wrote a study, entitled “View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery,” that significantly affected how hospitals are designed. He introduced the concept of “healing architecture.” Healing architecture refers to architecture and design elements within a health care facility that positively impacts the patient experience and healing.

The principles of healing architecture led to advancements in hospital design that initially focused on the acute care and ICU settings, including physical and psychological recovery. Then, in the mid-1990s, a greater focus and understanding of developmental care for neonates led to a similar shift in NICU design, focusing on parent involvement as care partners and relaxing family accommodations.

Today, NICU design trends are addressing a number of different characteristics that impact healing, from the visual aspects of design to the comfort and safety they provide patients, their families and health care staff.

Visual Stimulation

In his research, Ulrich compared two sets of patients—those with “tree views” and those with “wall views.” His study showed that patients with “tree views” had shorter hospital stays, took fewer pain medications and had lower surgical complications.

The study showed that visual contact with nature not only speeds patient healing but also helps family members and hospital staff deal with the stress of providing care, which enables them to better serve recovering patients or loved ones.

But what if your current hospital design or geographic location makes having a beautiful garden view impractical? Imagery inspired by nature can stimulate and create peace of mind.

Photo: Silentia custom PhotoPanels privacy screen in a family centered NICU room at Nemours Children’s Health in Wilmington Delaware.

In 2019, Silentia worked with Nemours Children’s Health in Wilmington, Delaware, to install privacy screens that offered a view to their new family-centered NICU. Healing architecture was an important consideration for NICU Director of Nursing, Christopher Beaty, who said, “The design has met our needs for aesthetics as well as infection control. I think we use all of these factors on this product. Even the beautiful color design for the screens to match the interior décor and provide a calm and reassuring atmosphere, met our needs.”

Similarly, Silentia worked with the NICU at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, where the Nursing Professional Development Generalist, Darlene Mensinger, uses Silentia PhotoPanel screens to provide patient privacy that stimulates healing.

“The field of daisies is my favorite. It can be dark and gloomy outside, but you can feel like you are sitting in a field of daisies,” says Mensinger.

Comfort at critical times

Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden wanted to change their protocol for caring for infants in their NICU. The existing design in the NICU didn’t allow for mothers coupling with their babies. Mothers recovered in a different ward separated from their infants. Existing rooms were not large enough to accommodate infants, mothers, and the equipment they both need for recovery.

The architect worked with the NICU care team to design a space to accommodate mothers coupling with their infants. Not only did the space meet their needs, but the hospital reported a 10-day shorter length of stay, lower morbidity rates, less ventilator assistance and improved long term mental and physical health.

A versatile privacy solution can create family-centered care rooms. Solid surface screens are a perfect companion for bedside pumping, skin to skin/kangaroo care, or a private retreat where family members can rest. They can be easily expanded or collapsed and rolled in and out, as needed to offer the desired level of privacy and separation.

Photo: Silentia custom PhotoPanels privacy screen in the NICU at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

Safe and sound

Safety is an important consideration in modern NICU design. Designing with surfaces that are sleek and clean offer more than just an impression of cleanliness. When elements of the patient room, equipment, and other surfaces are easy to keep clean, there is a great improvement in infection control and prevention efforts.

Similarly, a focus on durability and stability in design contributes to patient and staff safety. Anything in the patient room should be designed to enhance, not inhibit, any procedures or scenarios that could take place. From easy maneuverability in an emergency to accommodating other pieces of equipment or monitors, design should complement the workflow of the NICU.

Measurable impact in neonatal care

Hospital design is often thought of as subjective and superficial, however, we know that design has a measurable and desirable impact on clinical outcomes and cost in the NICU environment. These evidenced-based designs have saved lives, reduced pain and improved clinical outcomes.

Silentia privacy screens serve a clinical purpose—privacy and improved hygiene—and also incorporate important design elements that improve the patient experience, therefore improving physical and psychological healing.

Learn more about our design influences and how we have helped improve design in neonatal and NICU departments for more than 30 years. Connect with us for more information or to receive a virtual demo.

This article was written by Carole Vogel, Regional Sales Manager, PA, NJ & DE at Silentia, Inc.

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